Laws related to Working Women
The article ‘Laws related to Working Women’ is an evaluation of the progressive aspects of society with the enactments of various laws to safeguard working women.
In ancient India, women were given the most prestigious and revered position in society. They were confined to the four walls of the home during the post-Vedic era, and their job was limited to the usual household chores of cooking, housekeeping, and childrearing. They were not permitted to look for paid work outside the household. This slowed down their economic growth Laws and lessened their social issues.
However, new social norms and values resulted from industrialisation and urbanisation. With the country’s independence, more and more women were leaving their homes to find employment. Even though forcing women to work increased their economic and social standing, it created several problems for them, including exploitation, discrimination, and poor working conditions. Due to their unique social, biological, and psychological factors as well as their illiteracy and ignorance, the problem of challenges got worse. The government implemented several legal steps to protect female employees.
Indian women face several issues with their rights and privileges. Women have struggled to find their social standing and a legitimate societal role.
The Father of our Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, made several beneficial and urgently necessary moves to support Indian women. Indian women have gained a respectable status in society, and the credit goes to the revolutionary changes brought about by our Constitution and their efforts. As a result, they are regarded equal to males. Women must be treated equally under Indian law, which forbids discrimination against them in all spheres of life, including employment, education, and career advancement. Our Constitution also safeguards female employees’ rights by ensuring that they, especially pregnant women, have enough protection for their health and safety while working.
Also, the Constitution ensures the right to dignity and a sexually harassment-free workplace for women employees. All labour laws have special measures for the health and safety of female employees to fulfill the constitutional mandate. These regulations control women’s working hours and lessen their load.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013, was enacted by the Government of India in 2013. It is based on the Vishaka Judgment  of the Supreme Court, which was handed down in 1997 and defined the term “sexual harassment” and set forth guidelines for working women, regardless of whether they are employed in the public or private sector. The horrific Nirbhaya tragedy, which occurred on December 16, 2012, increased public outrage for amendments to the criminal code and the passage of the Sexual Harassment Act of 2013, both of which are gender-specific. In actuality, the lack of integrated law made it necessary. The Vishakha decision just provided recommendations.
Employers did not create any legal obligations; however, this act imposed a legal obligation on them to establish internal committees and adhere to company policies; otherwise, they risked a fine of Rs. 50,000, a doubled fine for subsequent offences, and the loss of any licences or registrations needed for conducting business or engaging in other activities from the government or local authorities.
Any one or more of the following inappropriate behaviours, whether expressed explicitly or implicitly, constitute sexual harassment: bodily interactions, advances, or a request or demand for sexual favours, sexually charged statements, or the display of pornography. any other inappropriate sexual behaviour, whether it be physical, verbal, or nonverbal.
The following situations, among others, may qualify as sexual harassment if they happen in connection with or as a result of any act or behaviour that constitutes sexual harassment: Implied or explicit promises of preferential treatment in the workplace; implied or explicit threats of unfavourable treatment; implied or explicit threats about her current or future employment status; interference with her work; creation of a threatening, offensive, or hostile work environment for her; or humiliating treatment likely to jeopardise her safety or ability to perform her job duties.
Women and The Labour Laws
Labour law is applicable when employees are engaged in work under an employment contract. Women who are employed make up a sizeable portion of society. The law must provide specific protection and equitable treatment for female workers. Almost all labour statutes have numerous legislative provisions that address the issues faced by female labourers in their employment situations in order to safeguard women. The laws cover a variety of topics, including wages, health, gratuities, maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, social security, and the control of employment in hazardous occupations. The following list of labour laws pertaining to the health, safety, and welfare of female workers:
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
The Act was passed in an effort to harmonise rates, eligibility requirements, and duration of maternity benefits while reducing discrepancies under the current Maternity Benefit Act. The Mines Maternity Benefit Act of 1941, the Bombay Maternity Benefit Act of 1929, the maternity protection under the Plantation Labour Act of 1951, and all other provincial laws dealing with the same subject are repealed by the Act.
Except as stated in Sections 5A and 5B of the Act, the Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948’s provisions do not apply to factories or other establishments. The Act aims to regulate women’s employment in specific workplaces at specific times before and after childbirth and to offer maternity benefits and other benefits to female employees. It applies to every facility, whether it be a factory, mine, or plantation, including any such facility owned by the government, as well as to every facility where people are hired to conduct equestrian, acrobatic, or other displays for the public.
The right to payment of maternity benefits stipulates that they will be entitled to compensation at the rate of average daily wages for the period of absence actually experienced immediately prior to and including the day of her delivery. It also includes restrictions on the employment of pregnant women, which state that no employer shall knowingly employ women during the period of 6 weeks immediately following the day of her delivery, miscarriage, or medical termination of pregnancy.
It states that a woman is entitled to leave for illness and miscarriage (leave for a maximum of six weeks after the day of her miscarriage or medical termination of pregnancy), protection against discrimination, maternity benefit for a maximum of 12 weeks, not more than six weeks of which may precede the date of her expected delivery, and leave for miscarriage.
The Maternity Benefit Act of 2017 stipulates that biological mothers may take up to 26 weeks of maternity leave, while adoptive moms may take up to 12 weeks. The Commission has suggested increasing maternity leave from 135 to 180 days for families with two children and extending leave up to two years for the same reason with contributing childcare facilities and nursing breaks. Due to the light nature of the labour allocated to her or the nursing breaks she is permitted to take, the employer shouldn’t withhold any money from a woman entitled to maternity benefits from her normal daily salary.
Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Female Workers 
The Supreme Court ruled that both daily wage and casual workers are eligible for the maternity benefit. In this instance, the issue was whether municipal corporation musters roll employees—casual and daily pay workers—were eligible for maternity benefits. Nothing in the Maternity Benefit Act grants the benefit of maternity leave to only regular female employees, excluding those who work part-time or on a muster register for a daily wage.
The Factories Act, 1948
The Act was significantly changed in 1987, establishing safeguards against the use and handling of hazardous substances for the establishment of hazardous industries, such as separate restrooms and urinals for men and women and prohibiting women from working in hazardous occupations where it states that no women shall be allowed to clean, lubricate, or adjust any part of a prime mover of any transmission machinery, lubrication, or adjustment that would expose the women to risk of injury.
A factory must have an appropriate space for children under the age of six of such women, and the room must be clean, ventilated, accommodating, and hygienic. This room is known as a “creche,” where babies of working women are cared for while their mothers are at work. Hours of work state that the daily hours of work for adults have been set at 9 (Section 54 of the Factories Act, 1948) but occasionally, men can work for more time but it does not allow women workers to go beyond the limit, maximum permissible load, prohibition of night work, and many other safety measures.
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
The Directive Principles of State Policy are covered in Part IV of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 39 of the Constitution, the state shall drive its policies, among other things, and every employer is required by law to pay men and women the same wages if they perform the same or similar types of work. The Act now governs all establishment types. The pay must remain the same even if it is done at various locations. Although hiring women is outlawed or restricted by law, employers cannot discriminate against women when hiring. Thus, the employer is banned from discriminating against women in issues of hiring, promotions, training, or transfer.
The employer ensures that the Act’s requirements are carefully observed and that there is no discrimination against women in hiring, promotion, and training. The employer must also keep accurate records, such as must rolls or registers, so the district labour officer can check them out. Any woman who experiences prejudice in these areas may report to the local labour officer.
In Air India v. Nargesh Meerza , the court ruled that the termination of service based on pregnancy was arbitrary and unjustified and that it was a clear violation of a basic right protected by Article 14 of the Constitution. After accepting employment and using her services for four years, the threat of terminating her employment if she becomes pregnant equates to forcing the unfortunate air hostess to abstain from having children, interfering with and offending the natural progression of human nature.
Minimum Wages Act, 1948
One must receive compensation because everyone who works must be compensated for their efforts. With the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, the government established a minimum wage that must be provided to all employees. For the same type of job, all women must receive pay equal to that of men and not less.
Women employees must be given to those who work in agriculture, for contractors, on a piece rate basis, for daily pay, or temporarily. The employer is required to pay the minimum wage even if the employee agrees to work for less money than what the government has set as the standard on a daily, hourly, and monthly basis, minimum salaries must be set.
According to the study mentioned above, the status of women in society is a precise indicator of how society is progressing. Today, women work in agriculture, plantations, mine beedis, crafts, and home-based jobs. However, due to several factors, including social attitudes, customs, marriage, gender-based labour division, insecurity, and sexual harassment fears, women continue to lag behind men in these fields. Women workers at work struggle with issues like low pay, discrimination, and abusive working conditions. Conclusion: Women’s poor working and living situations cannot be remedied unless they are given particular protection, and the governments pay adequate attention to these issues.
The Indian Constitution has given special consideration to the requirements of women, allowing them to exercise their rights on an equal basis with males and participate in the country’s advancement. Additionally, it seeks to establish a completely new social structure in which no one is discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, caste, or other characteristics. There has been progressing towards women’s empowerment in labour laws on both the national and international levels, as seen by the numerous special provisions provided for the welfare of women. Equal pay, equal access to opportunities, the prevention and correction of sexual harassment, and the provision of maternity benefits have all moved closer to being realities in India.
Half of the world’s population comprises women, and gender inequality is a problem everywhere on Earth. Whole communities will be bound to perform below their real potential until women are given the same opportunities men receive. The most pressing requirement at the moment is a shift in social attitudes. Women generally find it difficult to devote adequate quality time to their homes, children, and families. Working women frequently experience safety concerns, emotional stress, and workplace sexual harassment. Leaving children at home and leaving for work early in the morning presents challenges for women. Individuals who have preconceived notions or make conclusions about the personalities of working women.
 Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan and others, (1997) 6 SCC 241
 AIR 2000 SC 1275
 AIR 1981 SC 1829
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